Visualisation of bioinformatics datasets

  • Shahzad Mumtaz

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Analysing the molecular polymorphism and interactions of DNA, RNA and proteins is of fundamental importance in biology. Predicting functions of polymorphic molecules is important in order to design more effective medicines. Analysing major histocompatibility complex (MHC) polymorphism is important for mate choice, epitope-based vaccine design and transplantation rejection etc. Most of the existing exploratory approaches cannot analyse these datasets because of the large number of molecules with a high number of descriptors per molecule.
    This thesis develops novel methods for data projection in order to explore high dimensional biological dataset by visualising them in a low-dimensional space. With increasing dimensionality, some existing data visualisation methods such as generative topographic mapping (GTM) become computationally intractable. We propose variants of these methods, where we use log-transformations at certain steps of expectation maximisation (EM) based parameter learning process, to make them tractable for high-dimensional datasets. We demonstrate these proposed variants both for synthetic and electrostatic potential dataset of MHC class-I.
    We also propose to extend a latent trait model (LTM), suitable for visualising high dimensional discrete data, to simultaneously estimate feature saliency as an integrated part of the parameter learning process of a visualisation model. This LTM variant not only gives better visualisation by modifying the project map based on feature relevance, but also helps users to assess the significance of each feature.
    Another problem which is not addressed much in the literature is the visualisation of mixed-type data. We propose to combine GTM and LTM in a principled way where appropriate noise models are used for each type of data in order to visualise mixed-type data in a single plot. We call this model a generalised GTM (GGTM). We also propose to extend GGTM model to estimate feature saliencies while training a visualisation model and this is called GGTM with feature saliency (GGTM-FS). We demonstrate effectiveness of these proposed models both for synthetic and real datasets.
    We evaluate visualisation quality using quality metrics such as distance distortion measure and rank based measures: trustworthiness, continuity, mean relative rank errors with respect to data space and latent space. In cases where the labels are known we also use quality metrics of KL divergence and nearest neighbour classifications error in order to determine the separation between classes. We demonstrate the efficacy of these proposed models both for synthetic and real biological datasets with a main focus on the MHC class-I dataset.
    Date of Award14 Jan 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan T. Nabney (Supervisor)


    • major histocompatability complex
    • generative topographic mapping
    • Gaussian process latent variable model
    • latent trait model
    • feature saliencies

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